Former Wallkill Fire District board chair Michael Denardo was sentenced today in Ulster County Court for stealing nearly $240,000 from the district, State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced.
“This was a shameful crime of someone sworn to protect the public,” DiNapoli said. “It is also a warning to fire district officials throughout New York: Always safeguard your assets with checks and balances. I thank District Attorney Carnright for bringing Mr. Denardo to justice and helping us recoup the stolen funds.”
Michael Denardo, 39, of Wallkill, was sentenced to 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison and pay $239,622 restitution. His three-year scam was initially revealed in an audit and investigation by DiNapoli’s office, which found that Denardo convinced the treasurer to give him blank checks and another board member to sign them. He deposited the checks, laundered the money through his wife's account and submitted fake bills to the district.
"I thank the Comptroller and his staff for their diligent work on this case," District Attorney Holley Carnright said. “Comptroller DiNapoli is a valued partner in our efforts to combat fraud crimes in Ulster County.”
Denardo pleaded guilty in September to grand larceny in the third degree, a class D felony, and three counts of criminal tax fraud in the fifth degree, a misdemeanor.
The Comptroller’s audit concluded that Denardo could not have committed his crimes if the fire district board enforced proper controls. DiNapoli recommended that the district:
- Audit all claims before authorizing payment, which is required by state law;
- Prohibit the distribution or signing of blank checks; and
- Seek reimbursement of the missing funds.
In response, district officials agreed with the audit findings and submitted a 14-point corrective action plan to the Comptroller’s office. The plan calls for:
- Proper documentation before payment of all bills, credit card charges, and other disbursements;
- Monthly audits of bank statements;
- Signatures on all checks by the treasurer and one of two authorized commissioners; and
- An annual work session to audit all disbursements after the close of the fiscal year.
The fire district’s full response and Comptroller findings are in the final audit, which can be viewed here: http://osc.state.ny.us/localgov/audits/firedists/2016/wallkill.pdf.